Coronavirus pandemic forces organizers to get creative to ring in 2021
- The Independent
- Associated Press
- The Telegraph
- NBC News
In the final days of the Trump administration, Pompeo issued a flurry of decisions and promoted his record as a loyal servant of the president.
- National Review
- The Telegraph
- The Conversation
Many of the resolutions and executive orders Trump signed early in his administration reversed Obama-era decisions involving the fossil fuels industry. AP Photo/Evan VucciThe Trump administration dedicated itself to deregulation with unprecedented fervor. It rolled back scores of regulations across government agencies, including more than 80 environmental rules. The Biden administration can reverse some of those actions quickly – for instance, as president, Joe Biden can undo Donald Trump’s executive orders with a stroke of the pen. He plans to restore U.S. involvement in the Paris climate agreement that way on his first day in office. Undoing most regulatory rollbacks, however, will require a review process that can take years, often followed by further delays during litigation. There is an alternative, but it comes with risks. Biden could take a leaf from the Republicans’ 2017 playbook, when congressional Republicans used a shortcut based on an obscure federal law called the Congressional Review Act to wipe out several Obama administration regulations. Some scholars have called these 2017 repeals arguably “the Trump administration’s chief domestic policy accomplishment of its first 100 days.” Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of interest in having the new Democratic-controlled Congress turn the tables and use the same procedure against Trump’s regulatory rollbacks. However, this procedure is far from a panacea for undoing Trump’s legacy. Its arcane rules can tie the hands of future administrations without providing clear standards for how it applies, and it offers little time for deliberation. How Congress could cancel Trump’s rollbacks The 1996 Congressional Review Act provides a way of undoing new rules issued by executive branch agencies without being mired in agency and court proceedings. Democrats could use it to cancel rollbacks by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department and others. The Congressional Review Act applies equally whether a rule expands regulation or rolls it back. Within 60 legislative days after a new rule comes out, Congress can disapprove it using streamlined procedures. Senate filibusters are not allowed, and Senate debate is limited to 10 hours. Since only days Congress is in session are counted, the act can apply to regulations that go back several months. Once a rule is disapproved, it’s dead forever. It can’t be reissued. But that isn’t all. The act says no rule can be issued in “substantially the same form” without additional authorization from Congress. How similar does a future rule have to be before it becomes “substantially the same”? There is no definitive answer, so there’s some risk that an unfriendly judge might invalidate a Biden rule dealing with the same subject as a repealed Trump rule. Assuming the Biden rule goes in the opposite direction from the Trump rule, this might not be a major risk. But we can’t really be sure. Time and numbers Democrats may find some appealing targets for the Congressional Review Act. Just in the past few weeks, the Trump administration has adopted rules limiting consideration of public health studies to set air pollution limits, requiring banks to make loans to the firearms and oil industries, and protecting industries other than electric utilities from climate change regulations. These are only some of the last-minute efforts by Trump to sabotage regulations favored by Democrats. The number of congressional votes needed to succeed, particularly in the Senate, will likely narrow the list, however. The Democrats have only 50 senators, and they will need 50 votes plus Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote to use the act. Unless they can find a moderate Republican like Susan Collins of Maine to cross the aisle, they will need every single one of their own senators. That includes Joe Manchin of West Virginia, often their most conservative senator, particularly on fossil fuel issues. Congressional Review Act repeals also take time. Each takes up to 10 hours on the Senate floor. Senate floor time is limited and desperately needed to confirm Biden’s nominees and consider Trump’s impeachment. That’s not to mention a coronavirus relief bill and other priorities. This a strong reason to be selective. Is it time to repeal the act? Progressives view the Congressional Review Act as a remnant of Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America,” designed as a conservative tool for deregulation. They also point out that the Congressional Review Act’s time limits on repealing a regulation and procedural shortcuts mean that there’s very little opportunity for congressional deliberation. As a law professor specializing in energy and the environment, I have studied Republicans’ use of the Congressional Review Act in 2017. My research shows that their selection of targets was haphazard at best, having little to do with the burdens created by individual regulations. Democrats may find that their selection of Congressional Review Act targets will be driven less by major policy concerns and more by the vagaries of swing voters such as Sen. Manchin. [Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter.] Given reservations by some parts of the party about the Congressional Review Act and how much else Democrats now have on their agenda, it seems unlikely that Democrats will use the act to the same extent as the Republicans did in 2017. Maybe if the Congressional Review Act is now turned against Republican policies after being turned against Democratic policies, we may start to have a healthy debate on whether this mechanism for congressional oversight is worth keeping.This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Daniel Farber, University of California, Berkeley. Read more:Biden plans to fight climate change in a way no U.S. president has done beforeEPA staff say the Trump administration is changing their mission from protecting human health and the environment to protecting industry Daniel Farber does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
- NBC News
Federal law enforcement hasn't had to use significant legal and technical resources at its disposal because of online documentation.
- The Week
Israel has vaccinated at least 25 percent of its population against the coronavirus so far, which leads the world and makes it "the country to watch for herd effects from" the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, says infectious disease expert David Fishman. Recently, the case rate in Israel appears to have declined sharply, and while there could be a few reasons for that, it's possible the vaccination effort is beginning to play a role.> Israel's reproduction number appears to have declined rather sharply in recent days, with around 25% of the country vaccinated, and some additional percentage having at least partial immunity via prior infection. pic.twitter.com/sVyCYYd9dj> > — David Fisman (@DFisman) January 17, 2021One study from Clalit that was published last week reports that 14 days after receiving the first Pfizer-BioNTech shot, infection rates among 200,000 Israelis older than 60 fell 33 percent among those vaccinated compared to 200,000 from the same demographic who hadn't received a jab.At first glance, Fishman writes, that might seem disappointing since clinical trials suggested the vaccine was more than 90 percent effective. But he actually believes the 33 percent figure is "auspicious." Because vaccinated and non-vaccinated people are mingling, there could be "herd effects of immunization." In other words, when inoculated people interact with people who haven't had their shot, the latter individual may still be protected because the other person is. On a larger scale, that would drive down the number of infections among non-vaccinated people, thus shrinking the gap between the two groups' infection rates.> Estimated vaccine efficacy is a function of relative risk of infection in the vaccinated...when there is indirect protection via herd effects, we expect efficacy estimates to decrease because the risk among unvaccinated individuals declines.> > — David Fisman (@DFisman) January 17, 2021More data needs to come in, and Fishman thinks "we'll know more" this week, but he's cautiously optimistic about how things are going.More stories from theweek.com What the Constitution really says about removal from office An 'influential' Palm Beach eye doctor is reportedly on Trump's clemency list Statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico only needs 50 votes
- Reuters Videos
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden may end the Keystone XL pipeline project as one of his first acts in office, a source familiar with his thinking told Reuters it could happen as early as day one. Biden, who will be inaugurated on Wednesday, was vice president when Barack Obama rejected the $9 billion project in 2015. Then two years later, Donald Trump issued a presidential permit that allowed the line to move forward. Since then the project has seen opposition by environmentalists seeking to check Canada's oil industry and Native Americans whose land faced encroachment. Construction of the pipeline is well underway and if completed, would move oil from Canada's Alberta province to the U.S. state of Nebraska. In his 2020 run for president, Biden vowed to scrap its permit once elected. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported on Saturday, the words 'rescind Keystone XL pipeline permit' appeared on his list of Biden's executive actions likely scheduled for his first day. Biden's team did not respond to a request for comment, but Canada's ambassador to the U.S. said she looks forward to a decision that fits both countries' environmental protection plans. In a statement, Ambassador Kirsten Hillman said: "There is no better partner for the U.S. on climate action than Canada as we work together for green transition." Meanwhile Alberta's Premier tweeted he was "deeply concerned" by the report, adding the decision would kill jobs, increase U.S. dependence on foreign oil, and weaken U.S.-Canada relations.
- National Review
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) called on his Republican Party to rebuild itself and "repudiate the nonsense that has set our party on fire" in an in an op-ed for The Atlantic Saturday on the QAnon conspiracy theory.Why it matters: Many of the mob involved in the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol Hill riots wore items signaling their support for the far-right QAnon and a prominent member of the cult was among those arrested following the siege.Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here. * Several Republicans who ran for Congress last year publicly supported or defended the QAnon movement or some of its tenets — something Sasee noted in his op-ed, headlined "QAnon is Destroying the GOP From Within." * Sasse blames the violence on "the blossoming of a rotten seed that took root in the Republican Party some time ago and has been nourished by treachery, poor political judgment, and cowardice."Driving the news: Sasse wrote in his op-ed that "until last week, many party leaders and consultants thought they could preach the Constitution while winking at QAnon." * "They can't," he added. "The GOP must reject conspiracy theories or be consumed by them. Now is the time to decide what this party is about." * Sasse criticized House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for not denouncing QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) when she was running for Congress in 2020. * "She's already announced plans to try to impeach Joe Biden on his first full day as president," Sasse wrote. "She'll keep making fools out of herself, her constituents, and the Republican Party."Worth noting: Sasse said before the House impeached President Trump for a second time he'd consider "definitely consider" any articles of impeachment against him over his conduct and comments at a rally before the riots. * The Nebraska senator criticized Trump's embrace of QAnon supporters last August, warning that Democrats could "take the Senate" this "will be a big part of why they won." * Months later, the Democrats went on to win control of the Senate.The bottom line: Sasse wrote that his party faces a choice when Trump leaves office: "We can dedicate ourselves to defending the Constitution and perpetuating our best American institutions and traditions, or we can be a party of conspiracy theories."Go deeper: * The Capitol siege's QAnon roots * House freshmen at war after Capitol siegeSupport safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- The Independent
Man arrested at inauguration checkpoint with gun and ammo says he was lost and did not mean to bring weapon to DC
The man said he got lost driving around Washington DC
- National Review
Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president. Episode 3: The conspiracy goes too far. Trump's outside lawyers plot to seize voting machines and spin theories about communists, spies and computer software.President Trump was sitting in the Oval Office one day in late November when a call came in from lawyer Sidney Powell. "Ugh, Sidney," he told the staff in the room before he picked up. "She's getting a little crazy, isn't she? She's really gotta tone it down. No one believes this stuff. It's just too much."Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.He put the call on speakerphone for the benefit of his audience. Powell was raving about a national security crisis involving the Iranians flipping votes in battleground states. Trump pressed mute and laughed mockingly."So what are we gonna do about it, Sidney?" Trump would say every few seconds, whipping Powell more and more into a frenzy. He was having fun with it. "She really is crazy, huh?" he said, again with his finger on the mute button.It was clear that Trump recognized how unhinged his outside legal advisers were. But he was becoming increasingly desperate about losing to Joe Biden, and Powell and her crew were willing to keep feeding the grand lie that the election could be overturned. They were selling Trump a seductive but delusional vision: a clear and achievable path to victory. The only catch: He'd have to stop listening to his government and campaign staffs, to cross the Rubicon and view them as liars, quitters and traitors.Trump's new gang of advisers shared some common traits. They were sycophants who craved an audience with the president. They were hardcore conspiracy theorists. The other striking commonality within this crew was that all of them had, at one point in their lives, done impressive, professional, mainstream work.Rudy Giuliani once was "America's Mayor," hailed for his handling of 9/11. Powell was a successful attorney who defended Enron. Michael Flynn was a decorated three-star general whom Obama fired and then Trump brought back as his national security adviser, before firing him and ultimately pardoning him. Lin Wood was a nationally known defamation lawyer. Patrick Byrne made a small fortune launching the internet retailer Overstock.com.One exception was Jenna Ellis. She had a thin legal resume, and had in the 2016 campaign season used adjectives like "idiot," "boorish," "arrogant," "bully," and "disgusting" to characterize Trump and his behavior. But during Trump's presidency, she pushed her way into his inner circle, powered by levels of televised obsequiousness remarkable even for Trumpworld.Powell and Wood distinguished themselves with their extremism. Even Giuliani began distancing himself, telling anyone who'd listen that Powell didn't represent the president. But Trump promoted Powell as part of his team, and even though he had privately admitted to aides that he thought she was "crazy," he still wanted to hear what she had to say."Sometimes you need a little crazy," Trump told one official.While Trump's campaign team — experienced attorneys such as Justin Clark and Matt Morgan — were scrutinizing issues such as signature verification and access to room monitoring for vote counting, Powell was appealing to Trump's personal mantra to "Think Big!"She presented the president with a sweeping, multinational conspiracy of foreign interference at a scale never seen before in American history. The fact that she had no evidence that could hold up in court was a minor detail.Powell and Flynn told Trump he couldn't trust his team. That appealed to a paranoid mentality that always lurked beneath his surface: The FBI was corrupt. His CIA was working against him, and his intelligence community was, too. Why else weren't they showing him the evidence that China, Venezuela, Iran and various other communists had stolen his election win?To help him bypass these obstacles, they'd need Trump to give them top-level security clearances so they could get to the bottom of the "stolen" election. Trump liked this idea. Why not make Powell a special counsel in charge of election fraud? Why not give her and Flynn the clearances?Trump's professional staff had learned over time that they had to pick their moments to fight back. On the question of Powell, chief of staff Mark Meadows and White House counsel Pat Cipollone were of one mind: No way was she getting a top secret clearance.Powell and Flynn sent Trump advisers documents they said contained the evidence of this far-reaching conspiracy. To the White House staff, it was gibberish — the rantings of a QAnon devotee. But these documents — perhaps the most deranged materials to reach a modern U.S. president — found their way to the West Wing.According to documents obtained by Axios, Powell and her crew advised Trump that a foreign conspiracy to steal the election involved a coordinated cyberwarfare attack from China, Russia, Iran, Iraq and North Korea.In arguments in front of Trump in the Oval Office, White House officials pushed back aggressively.What Powell was claiming to have uncovered would have been the greatest foreign attack in American history. Yet the U.S. intelligence community had seen no evidence of it.But Powell had an answer for that too: The reason Trump hadn't heard about this from his intelligence officials was because they were actively subverting him and hiding crucial information from him.His dog whistle to QAnon conspiracy theorists — a curiosity prompted once he learned they "love Trump" — dated back to at least the summer. On July 1, 2020, Trump met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Todd Young of Indiana and top political aides in the Oval Office for an update on Senate races. Trump was holding a printed slide deck showing the latest key data points, like polling and cash on hand, for the closely watched Colorado Senate race between Republican Cory Gardner and Democrat John Hickenlooper.Trump looked at the deck and immediately said, "How about that primary last night?" QAnon-enthusiast Lauren Boebert had won the Republican primary for Colorado's 3rd Congressional District. Consensus in the room was that Boebert's victory was a stunner. The president then addressed McConnell. "You know she’s a believer in that QAnon," he said. "Are you familiar with that, Mitch?" McConnell sat there stone-faced. He didn't move a muscle."You know, people say they're into all kinds of bad things and say all kinds of terrible things about them," Trump added. "But, you know, my understanding is they basically are just people who want good government."The room fell silent. Nobody knew how to respond. Then all of a sudden Meadows burst out laughing. "I have heard them described a lot of ways, but never quite like that," he said. The meeting participants broke down laughing. "In terror, quite candidly," said a source in the room.Powell filled the Trumpian Venn diagram between conspiracy theorists and sycophants. She offered the comforting deceptions that Trump was craving in his desperate post-election days and that the people on his team who had actual experience in election law refused to serve him.In the false and baseless theory she crafted, America's enemies had used two CIA programs — a foreign surveillance program called the "Hammer" and a cyberwarfare weapon called "Scorecard" — to steal U.S. elections. Her evidence was based on claims from a California computer programmer with a long track record of hawking fantastic-sounding technology. Powell and Flynn claimed that the CIA had been using these programs nefariously since 2009. Documents her team shared with Trump advisers falsely claimed that top Obama administration intelligence officials John Brennan and Jim Clapper — both enemies of Trump's — had illegally commandeered Hammer to advance Obama's supposed ambition of turning America into a communist client state. They further claimed that Brennan and Clapper had taken the program's source code with them when they left office. China had now mysteriously acquired Hammer, Powell argued.They described this as an act of war during in an Oval Office appearance on Dec. 18. No response should be considered too bold, they said. Trump needed to use the full force of the U.S. government to seize Dominion voting machines and catch the "traitors."That an American president was even entertaining any of this, raised questions about the state of his mind and his capacity to fulfill his duties.The evening before that meeting, Giuliani had phoned his old friend, Ken Cuccinelli, second in command at the Department of Homeland Security, asking him whether DHS could seize voting machines. "No," Cuccinelli told Giuliani, politely but firmly. His department did not have that legal authority.By this point, Trump was mainlining conspiracies. Many of his longest-serving advisers had all but given up trying to reason with him.His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, billed once by Newsweek as the most influential presidential relative since Bobby Kennedy, receded from the discussions when it came to countering the crazies. Once Giuliani took over, Kushner subsided from view, trying to cut last minute deals in the Middle East and burnish his foreign policy legacy. This frustrated some of his colleagues. Serious intervention was required on the domestic front.Whether Trump himself was still in charge, or had ceded decision-making to the bottom feeders, was at least an open question.🎧 Listen to Jonathan Swan on Axios' new investigative podcast series, called "How it happened: Trump's last stand."About this series: Our reporting is based on interviews with current and former White House, campaign, government and congressional officials as well as eyewitnesses and people close to the president. Sources have been granted anonymity to share sensitive observations or details they would not be authorized to disclose. President Trump and other officials to whom quotes and actions have been attributed by others were provided the opportunity to confirm, deny or respond to reporting elements prior to publication. "Off the rails" is reported by White House reporter Jonathan Swan, with reporting and research assistance by Zach Basu. It was edited by Margaret Talev and Mike Allen. Illustrations by Sarah Grillo, Aïda Amer and Eniola Odetunde.Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.